South Holland District Council planning committee recommended to approve ‘disgraceful’ Holbeach Bank solar farm application
A ‘disgraceful’ solar farm could be getting the green light later this week by planners.
South Holland District Council's planning committee have been recommended to approve AUK PE12 Ltd’s bid to build a 48MW solar farm on farmland near Holbeach Bank at their next meeting on Wednesday.
The application – which has been branded a disgrace by ward member and council leader Nick Worth – has received a backlash from the local community who have raised concerns about the loss of prime agricultural land and biodiversity along with highways safety and congestion.
But a report to the meeting by officers has advised that the majority of land in the district is classed as the ‘best and most versatile’ (BMV) land types that it is unlikely that an alternative site could be found.
Coun Worth is ‘strongly opposed’ to the application on land north of Roman Bank and east of Middle Marsh Road at Red House Farm in Holbeach St Marks, on the grounds that it would result in a loss of vital agricultural land.
His objection states: “This area is one of the most important in the UK for food production and to remove this for what is a relatively small amount of energy that will disappear onto the National Grid (so no local benefit) would be disgraceful.
“By removing this land from food production it is also likely to impact on the sustainability of the farming business that is currently renting it and that could result in job losses. The charity that owns the land does not need extra funding, it has more than enough already.
“The farm, like many in the area grows potatoes, wheat, sugar beet and onions to name a few crops and due to the quality of the land (I dispute the Grade 2 classification and agree with the MAFF Grade 1), produces a much greater tonnage than other areas of the country which would have an impact on food produced in the area, as there is no other available land of this quality.
“As the local ward member I am aware of strong opposition from local people to this proposal for many of the reasons mentioned above. While you can screen the area with trees and hedging you will never manage to totally hide it and it will always be a blot on the landscape. The proposal will irrevocably change the nature and character of the area and should it be successful, where does it stop, as I am aware of another large application waiting in the wings.”
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A total of 55 objections have been received to the application – including MP Sir John Hayes – were lodged against the application.
The report, which advises that planners are urged to support renewable energy developments by national policies, states: “Whilst the site includes BMV land, the applicant has demonstrated through site selection that the majority of land within the district is classed as best and most versatile under the Agricultural Land Classification; this represents compelling justification.
“Therefore, it is considered that on balance the proposal which includes significant benefits in respect of contributing to the climate crisis and the pursuit of net zero as well as the benefits to ecology would outweigh the harm placed upon the landscape character and the visual amenity of local residents.
“Other residential amenity impacts can fairly be mitigated through condition and ongoing review of glint and glare and once at residual stage the impact upon the landscape will visually lessen and the scheme will be largely screened.”
The proposal wants to place ground mounted solar panels on a 80 hectare site. An access, small transformer housing unit and substation compound are also included in the application along with inverter stations located strategically around the site.
The report also states: “The scheme would also provide a biodiversity net gain of 172 %, the permission is for a temporary period; conditioned to 35 years and a partial agricultural use in the form of grazing would be continued across the site throughout the lifetime of the development.
“Conditions are applied to mitigate impact to residents and road users during the construction phase and the proposed landscaping scheme, once at residual stage would for the most part screen the development from.
“Whilst the site includes BMV land, the applicant has demonstrated through site selection that the majority of land within the district is glassed as best and most versatile under the Agricultural Land Classification; this represents compelling justification.”